The repetition of Cunningham and Whitman

Michael Cunningham emphasizes television’s compulsion to repeat.  Walt Whitman emphasizes his own compulsion to repeat. Whitman’s listing, or cataloging, and use of repetition draw the reader in to try and discover the true meaning behind his words.

Cunningham’s angle may be to point out the link between the trauma that has occurred and the repetitive coverage through the technology of television, which emphasizes the trauma repeatedly for the masses, especially in the case of the 9/11 attacks. The first image that comes to mind for most, when visualizing the 9/11 attacks, is the people falling and jumping from the towers. This image is frozen in the television viewers’ minds as the main association with the attacks on the World Trade Center Towers on 9/11. How much of this tendency for repetition from Cunningham was actually a result of Whitman’s influence?

The use of repetition in poetry and prose is more than just a mechanical (like mathematical) repetition. It changes the meaning of the repeated item simply by its use of and stressed elements through repetition. There is a new relationship suggested through repetition. In Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass,” he uses repetition, which helps to develop a certain type of magical rhythm to accentuate the ideas stated in the poem. He uses repetition not only in his words, but also in the sounds of the words in his poetry. Through this usage of repetition, the reader finds an unpredictability in the relationship of the repeated words, and it is this union of the words that makes it possible to find the parallelism between the lines of poetry and the mechanics of a mathematical equation using recursion.

Krystyna Mazur suggests in her book entitled, “Poetry and Repetition,” that it is not the sameness of the repeated words, but the difference that is noted by using the repetition that is the most unique element to literary repetition. When repetition is used heavily, “as we continue repeating, we begin to discover the strangeness of our own words. Repetition makes them sound foreign or like the words of a stranger. We begin to hear in our own words echoes of some other presence, something not our own, something not of our making” (Mazur 2005, p. xxi).

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